Tuesday, December 13, 2011

No Sleep For the Weary

I've been on a bit of a hiatus, haven't I?  It certainly wasn't intentional; I guess just after I posted my Thanksgiving blog, I went into a bit of a funk.  Insomina took over and although I had plenty of empty hours to write, I just didn't have the motivation.


I've never been quite the sleeper.  I'm a morning person and night owl, all rolled into one.  But when I became a mom, the insomnia really took over, and I can't even blame it on motherhood. As a newborn, my son was a great sleeper.  He put himself on a schedule and slept through the night at six weeks.  I was lucky, but I guess that lack of sleep was a consequence of the responsibilities of parenthood more than the actual physicality of it all.

I enjoy my quiet evenings after both my husband and son have fallen asleep.  We all know as mothers, whether you're a stay-at-home or working mom, we have little time for ourselves.  The spare moments we do find in a day, are quickly filled with things that need to get done.  Nap times are spent cleaning, doing laundry or making dinner (okay, I'm not much of a cleaner, so that's not my excuse).

We trade in getting our nails done to finger-painting, lunches with girlfriends to playdates at the park, and nights out at movies to story telling at bedtime.  So it's the moments, after the house is quiet,  that I can sit down and find the time for me.

Unfortunately, this is also precisely the time my mind goes into overtime and I become preoccupied with thoughts; Where are we?  How will I do this?  Where will we live?  How long will we be here?  When can I go home? Why can't Brooke get a job in the states? How do I help Braden adjust?  How can I be a better parent? What am I doing?  What should I be doing instead?

We've probably all been there; you've watched the clock for the third time in ten minutes.  It's just past two in the morning and you start calculating how many hours of sleep you can still get before you have to get up in the morning.  You've tried meditating, reading, giving up coffee... yet sleep still won't come easily to you.  So what do you do?

...  because I can't figure it out as I sit blogging at ten past two in the morning...


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Today, as I celebrate my first "non-celebrated" Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my husband, son, family, and friends.  My health, body and mind.  My work, my life, and all of its adventures.  My role as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend.

I am grateful for my optimism, open mindedness, patience, love, and determination.

I am grateful for my independence, freedom, and choices.

Today, and everyday, I am grateful for what is my life!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 21, 2011

Being Knocked Off My Foundation

I consider myself a strong woman, a solid mother, a super-star most times, okay, maybe not most, but I do try my best (chuckle).  I love my job of motherhood and cherish the time I get to spend with Braden.

What rocks me, knocks me off my foundation, and pretty much sends me in a tailspin is when Braden is sick.  A simple cold, runny nose or mild cough doesn't bother me, but the middle of the night fever which spikes to 105 with no warning or preparedness is what paralyzes me.

Last night, not too long after I had fallen asleep, I awoke to Braden calling out random statements.  "Don't take away my tracing board, I want to do my Korean letters."  Or, "I want my balloon.  Give me my balloon."  Initially I thought he was simply having a dream and talking in his sleep, so I called out after him, trying to jostle him out of his dream.  When that didn't work, I walked over to his bed and put my hand on his back to try and gently shake him awake.  As soon as I placed my hand on his back I could feel the burn through his pajamas.  I quickly scanned his whole body and he was burning up all over.  Still talking in his sleep, he wasn't having a dream, he was hallucinating from the high fever.

I panicked.  I quickly grabbed him, which made him cry out that I was hurting him.  Even more petrified I asked, "What do you mean I'm hurting you?  What hurts?  Please tell Mommy what is hurting you?"  Thoughts of meningitis, swine flu, Asian flu were all swirling around in my head.  When he couldn't tell me what was hurting, I just held him as tightly as I could and through tears, I kept whispering, "Everything is going to be okay.  Everything is going to be okay."  Braden, completely attune to my feelings, stopped and asked why I was crying?   This of course, made my cry even harder because this was not the time for him to worry about me.  He was supposed to depend on me for support, me to remain calm, me to assure him that everything was going to be okay.

It was at that moment that I pulled myself together and did what all mommies and daddies do.  I rocked and held him for as long as I could, gave him Tylenol and a lukewarm sponge bath until his fever broke, and then I lay down next to him, watching him sleep for the rest of the night.

It was during that time of my watching him, his fever and my fears subsiding, that I began to reflect on what caused my panic.

It was then that I realized, I was afraid:  I was afraid of failing him;  I was afraid of being unprepared;  I was afraid of being in a foreign country unable to help him.  There are no 24 hour CVS pharmacies I could drive to, or a pediatrician I could call. I didn't have a medicine cabinet I spent years filling; all I had was a bottle of Tylenol I brought from home, and a wash cloth and bowl of lukewarm water.  That's all I had to help my baby and that... scared me. 

In the midst of my fear, I was grateful for the time difference because what was my middle of the night was the middle of the day at home.  So I called a friend for support and she let me share my fears, my worries, and my insecurities.  She assured me that Braden would be okay, and she offered to just sit with me as the time passed.

I know, in reflecting, that babies get sick all over the world.  That if it's not a CVS, it's a local pharmacy.  If not a pediatrician I know, it's someone I will meet at the hospital or clinic we walk into.  I know that there are mothers all over the world who wake up in the middle of the night with a child who has spiked a fever.  I know that there are mothers and father everywhere, who fall apart, just like I did, when their babies are sick. 

As I now sit here and blog about my experience, Braden is sleeping comfortably in his bed.  We've been to see the pediatrician and he does not have meningitis, the swine or Asian flu.  He simply has a throat infection.  We've been prescribed medication, and I trust, just as I would back in the States, that he will be better in no time.

So to those of you who have sick children right now, love them, care for them, get some rest if you can, and don’t worry about holding it together, because nothing knocks us off our foundations like when our babies are sick.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

As We Count The Weeks

While we are pregnant we count the weeks until our due date.  The biggest milestone is crossing the threshold of your first trimester.  It gives you a sense of relief, a knowing that the baby will be okay.  Twenty weeks marks the halfway point and typically the time you can get a glimpse of whether it's a boy or girl.  By then, the countdown begins.

After our little ones have arrived, we begin counting all over again.  Our two week old, four week old, six week old, and so on.  Slowly the weeks turn into months as we anticipate the milestones of rolling over, the first tooth, sitting up, first foods, crawling, walking and talking.

Braden and I arrived to Korea four weeks ago today.  In those short weeks we have done, seen and accomplished so much.  We have, like infants do, grown and changed quite a bit.  We started to learn a new language and culture.  We have adapted a new cuisine.  We eat with chopsticks and take off our shoes at the door.  We have taken the subway fifty-two times and the bus four times.  We have explored fifteen subway stops,  traveled from one end of Seoul to the other, visited seven new parks and playgrounds, the aquarium, the zoo, and attended a traditional Korean concert and Lantern Festival.  We shop at open markets and carry our shopping dolly with us.  We have made nine new friends and have had seven playdates.  We started a MeetUp and have eight new members.  We even signed up for a Korean art class.

And this is just the beginning, because just like infants, we have a lot more growing and learning to do.

Stay tuned...


Monday, October 31, 2011

The Animals Weren't The Only Things On Display

Seoul offers a lot of great escapes nestled within the city limits for both adults and children.  It amazes me that these finds are often free.  Today, with friends, we discovered the Children's Grand Park at Gwangjin-gu Neung-dong, a wonderland of delight from a Music Fountain, to Camel rides, to a Zoo and Botanical Garden.  Weather permitting, which it was this weekend, they also have an Adventure Land playground, Outdoor Concert Hall, and Kids’ Auto Park.  It's a Disneyland of sorts, in the midst of natural surroundings.  Or, as natural as an Asian Black Bear can be in the middle of the city.

While visiting the Zoo, with elephants, bears, leopards and more, Braden and I had an experience, with which I am still struggling.  More importantly, I don't know how to make sense of it in a way I can explain to Braden.

Braden is the kind of kid who knows when he needs his own space and has had enough.  It was a learned acknowledgment, one that came from struggles and battles with both adults and children, one that grew as his language did, and with the guidance we provided.   'It looks like you might need some space right now, do you think you might want to play in your room for a while?'  Or, 'I think this is too overwhelming for you, why don't we find something else to play with?'  If it got really difficult, he often heard, 'I think it's best you find a quiet place until you can calm your body down.'  Eventually, he was able to know his own feelings, understand his own behavior, and create the space he needed for himself.

Today, at the zoo, there was a moment, where he felt tired and overwhelmed.  It had been a long afternoon and the Children's Grand Park was getting crowded.  On his own, he found a quiet nook, slightly off the beaten path, away from the animals and crowd and sat himself down in the sun.  It was a beautiful sight, so I promptly grabbed my camera to capture this precious moment.

Suddenly, without warning, as quickly as a wave can take you under, Braden was surrounded by a group of teenagers excited to see a young American boy.  Innocently, they simply wanted to say hello, ask his name, and where he came from.  But it happened too quickly and caught us both off guard.  Braden, suddenly became the biggest attraction in the zoo.  He had more people surrounding him than the animals in the exhibits.  Parents wanted to take photos with Braden and their young children, even as both kids (perhaps more attune to each other than the adults to them) protested.

The Mama bear in me, wanted to protect my baby cub and fight off the unsolicited intruders, but I was paralyzed.  Wanting to be respectful, both of these strangers and my son, I was torn.  How do you teach children kindness, respect and friendliness, when your own space is being invaded?  How can you be a role model to you child, when you yourself feel like lashing out.  Language is a real barrier.  'No, thank you!' sounds pretty universal, but it gets ignored.  Although a child in obvious distress should give you a clue to back away, this only seems to encourage more attention and further invasion of personal boundaries.

When Braden had had enough, like a wild animal, he began kicking his feet and shouting, 'No, Mommy, No!  Tell them to go away!'  Finally, defeated, he put his head down, hoping they'd just go away.  Clearly, when I saw they were not going to stop, I became the crazy parent who scoops away her child and makes a run for it!  Sadly, we couldn't run far before more attention followed.

How then, with a cultural and language barrier, and feeling stuck between respecting others and yourself, do you navigate these situations?  I don't have the answer, nor do I think I am doing a very good job right now.

How I explained it to Braden was like this;  'Remember when we went to Sesame Place this summer and you saw Elmo, Oscar and Big Bird?  Remember how excited you were to see them?'  Several enthusiastic nods odds of acknowledgement.  'Well, that same excited feeling you had when you saw Elmo is how some Koreans feel when they see you.  You are different and special to them.  Do you see how you are different?'  'No', was his response, which gave me a knot in my stomach.  Do I really need to point out the differences when my child sees everyone as the same and holds no judgment or prejudice?  Well, he knows his Zia Sabrina, who has special needs, is different; he has an eclectic group of friends of all races, cultures and nationalities and he knows gays, lesbians, and trans-genders.  Why then shouldn't I share what makes him different than Koreans?  So, I pointed out the difference in language, eyes, hair and skin color.  I further shared that just like Elmo, sometimes, when we really don't feel like all the attention, we just have to smile and say hello; but, that if it ever felt too hard, Mommy and Daddy would always be there to protect him.  He seemed satisfied with this explanation, but I'm not sure it works for me.

As I navigate through this experience of my own, I'm open to suggestions on how to do it better, because for me, Braden is all that matters!


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Every Country Needs an Ameri-town

I've been to Korea-town in both Los Angeles and New York, but I never thought Korea would have it's own Ameri-town.   Every country needs an Ameri-town and Itaewon is Korea's version.

From the moment I stepped out of the subway, I was surrounded by all things American:  fast food chains and retail stores line the strip from The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, to Dunkin' Donuts, Coldstone Creamery, Subway, Quiznos, Outback Steakhouse, Nike, Reebok, of course a McDonald’s and my ultimate favorite; Aldo.  Starbucks was, as Starbucks typically is, strategically placed at both ends of the strip.   Most signs and logos were in English, but within this mass of American advertising, there were also little unique, Korean shops, boutiques and restaurants.

Non-Koreans were mixed within the crowds and English was overheard among the busy buzz of the neighborhood.  I felt oddly at home and out of place at the same time.  Interestingly enough, Braden asked, 'When are we going home, Mom?’  As if he too felt like a foreigner in this non-foreign world.

How quickly we adapt to our environment and notice even the slightest differences.  In Nowon-gu, our neighborhood, I expect to be the minority and I almost don't notice it anymore.  I know, that sounds so ridiculous after only living here for a little over a week, but today, when I noticed Americans, it caught me off guard.  As if I had, for a split second, forgotten where I was.

Braden and I will definitely come back to Itaewon; both for the familiarity and the ease of navigation.  It's busier, cleaner and more metropolitan than our neighborhood, nestled within the locals.  There's a greater mix of cultures, language and diversity and this, I want for Braden.  It’s nice to know, way out here in the mix of things in Seoul, that we can still find a little slice of America, a little bit of home.

The Seoul Metro Subway has 328 stations.  That means 328 places to visit, 328 places to explore, 328 places to get to before we move on...

We better keep riding. 


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Life is Like a Picture Book

As newborns, we explore and learn about the world through what we hear, see, touch, taste and smell. From the moment we are born, we recognize our mother's voice and finally put a face to it.  Instinctively we know when we're hungry and tired, and rely on the very beings that nurture us to help us navigate the world.  Newborns don't quite know that a ball is a ball, and that it bounces and is round.  They can discover this through sight and touch, but it's only after we repeatedly hear that this object is a ball, that we know it's a ball.

As toddlers begin to grow, they learn that everything has a name and that names are made up of letters.  They begin to recognize their letters and see them in the world around them; words in a book, signs on the road, names of people. Before they recognize words, they recognize symbols and logos.

I remember Braden, at a very young age, recognizing a Starbuck's iced coffee cup on the counter of a store and saying, 'That's Mommy's Coffee.' Too young to read, he recognized the logo and the countless times I repeated, 'Please don't touch, this is Mommy's coffee.' And he knew what it said.

Now, at three, Braden is piecing together his letters and recognizing words.  Those same picture books that were read to him as a baby, he's able, to some degree, to begin reading to himself.  He recognizes that M-O-M is Mom, and D-A-D is Dad. He knows the sounds of each letter and is beginning to phonetically piece them together to sound out words.

And this is how it begins.  Our lives go from picture books to chapter books, as we navigate the world around us.

Recently, I find myself feeling much like a newborn again.  As I look around my world, nothing looks familiar anymore. I see words, but don't know what they say. I see things, but don't know what they are.  I am once again trusting the people around me to help me navigate my new world.

Today, I went to the grocery store for the first time and I felt lost and helpless.  I felt like a newborn must feel in the early months of life, how a toddler feels before he begins to read, how my parents must have felt immigrating to New York many years ago.

How do we make sense of a world that is so foreign to us?  Like babies, we take it all in.  We look, we smell, we touch and we taste until we know that a ball is a ball, and that it bounces and is round.  It may take a few tries, but eventually we learn.

So, for now, my life is like a picture book, and I'm taking it all in.


Monday, October 24, 2011

What's the Next Adventure?

Braden has always been a boy that likes adventure.  Since we moved to Korea, each morning he wakes up and one of the first things he says is, "What are we doing today, Mom?"

Even after a long day of being out and about, as we head home he cries out, "I don't want to go home.  I want to go everywhere."

"Oh we'll go everywhere, for sure Braden, but for now, it's time to go home."

Today, even with gray skies and a little chill in the air, it was no different.

So, today's adventure consisted of shopping at the opening market.  First on our agenda was buy a shopping bags with wheels.  With a lot of walking in our future, that is definitely a necessity.  This is the one Braden settled on.

Next stop, shopping for dinner.  Still unsure of what everything is, we were going to play a lot of guessing games.

With a bag of full of a lot of guesses, we headed home and made dinner.

Turned out...  let's just call it "experimental".  It got a thumbs up from Braden, which doesn't say much since he eats practically anything.

The best part certainly wasn't the dinner, but the afternoon filled with exploring, discovering and simply trying something new.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

First Impressions

As I start this journey of emerging myself in a new culture, not just visiting, but living within the culture for an indefinite period of time, I begin to think about first impressions.  What kind of impact do they have on our overall judgment of a person, place or thing?

Coming to the end of my first day living in Seoul, I begin to think about my first impressions and how they will affect my overall feelings about being here.   When you have first impressions, do you tend to focus on the positive or negative?  I guess for me, it probably has a lot to do with my preconceived ideas or stereotypes.

What I have come to  know, in just a short day, is that Koreans are extremely friendly.  I'm talking, over the top, out of your way friendly.  They do not take “No, Thank you” for an answer.  I think having a three year old with blonde hair by my side, certainly draws a lot of attention, but I’m surprised by all of the attention.  Most surprising is that the majority comes from Korean men.

From the moment I landed in Korea, I had Korean men offering to help me.  Perhaps it was the fact that a single mom with a three year old and seven suitcases in tow looked obviously needy, but I was touched by their kindness.  With little vocabulary, they simply nodded, smiled, picked up my suitcases and walked with me.  If I was in a store and asked a question, if the man/woman behind the counter didn’t understand me, they went out of their way to call for someone who could help.  Young teens stopped us on the street just to say, “Hello”, literally, just-to-say-hello.  Several men throughout the day also stopped to touch or pat Braden on the head.  Braden, not necessarily thrilled by this outpouring of attention said to me, “Mom, it’s rude for that man to just touch me without asking for permission.”  Ah- yes, how do you explain this to a three year old?   I want Braden to be friendly, open minded, spirited, and compassionate.  I want him to be loving, gracious, respectful and accepting of others, at the same time, I also want him to know and have his own boundaries.
So how do we teach our children to be open minded, friendly, compassionate, and accepting.   We walk the walk and talk the talk. We expose them to environments that nurture awareness of others. We teach them sand-box etiquette – which is; we don’t throw sand, we help to build the castle, we don’t knock it down or kick it, we share our shovel, we help each other and work together.  Most of all, we smile and are friendly.

Seoul reminds me a lot of Europe and there is a sense of comfort in that. The smells are different, unique to Korea, but I recognized the noises of the street, the buses and cars, the sound of children playing in the school yard, the local produce stands and cafes, and the hustle and bustle of old city living.  Of course there is the obvious difference of people and language, but the sounds are very familiar and reassuring.

It feels good to be here.  Braden seems happy.  The happiest I've seen him in a long time.  Perhaps it's because Mommy feels complete and settled.  Perhaps it's because I'm the happiest I've been in a long time too.  I'm looking forward to all that Seoul has to offer our family.  Nothing like jumping in the deep end and taking it all in.  We are definitely taking it all in...

Until the next adventure...


Friday, October 7, 2011

Finding the Stability in Moving

Moving to me is like having a fresh start. It’s finding a new home, making new friends, embarking on an adventure. Whether you move around the block, several miles away, clear across the country or world, each move offers new opportunities.

I grew up in the same house until I left for college. My mom still lives in my childhood home. For a long time after I left, I had the same room, with the same bed, the same posters and furnishings. I had a sense of regularity, consistency and stability. Not much changed and I always knew where everything was. The longer I stayed away, the appearance slowly began to change, but I always came back to the same home. I didn’t necessarily want the same stability in my own life, but it was nice to come home to it every now and again.

I enjoy moving! Not the physical part of it, of course, but the energy that comes with moving. The excitement of a starting over; whether that meant a new space, new job, or friends.

Having moved eighteen times since leaving for college, I have it down to a science. You accumulate less, use the bare necessities, and learn to travel light. I find that I’m more flexible, social, resourceful and adventurous. I’m more spontaneous and less attached to material things. I make friends easily and always manage to find my way around.

Moving when you’re single, or at least without children, doesn’t hold the same responsibilities.  It’s easy, effortless and a whole lot of fun.  I hadn’t intended to be a transplant.  I’m definitely not a gypsy or a nomad, but opportunities came and I followed my heart.

When I finally got married and had a baby, I really thought I would settle down. This meant buying a house and living happily-ever-after. Well, it’s definitely been happily, but not ever-after.

In our son’s three years, he will have moved three times, with at least another time anticipated in the not so distant future.

As a mother, you worry about the effects a move, or multiple moves will have on your children. Will Braden feel insecure, unstable, and anxious? Will he become fearful, distant, or detached? Will he miss out on making solid childhood friendships? Friendships that will last him a lifetime.

Experts may argue that moving is traumatic for a child and that children need stability and consistency in their lives; to which I agree, to some extent. But what about the adventure that moving brings? The life lessons, experiences, and growth that you gain from living in multiple places, cultures and worlds? What about the flexibility that you learn, the sense of freedom you develop, or the acceptance of differences?

Don’t get me wrong, I want Braden to be grounded, but does that mean he needs to be grounded to one place or that he needs to be attached to a house or things?

Children do need security and familiarity, but that shouldn’t come from their relationship with things. It’s the relationships they form with people in their lives that should help them feel secure and loved.

I want Braden to have friendships that will last him a lifetime, but that doesn't mean his friendships need to be local. What an amazing gift it will be for him to have friends, like his parents, that he has made through the course of his life, who are scattered all over the world. Friends that he can call, Skype, email or travel to see.

I have no doubt that these next couple of years will provide Braden with experiences that will shape his development in a positive way. He will learn multiple languages, experience unique cultures, foods and people. He will learn differences and acceptance.

I am, New York-born, Bostonian-bred, and Californian at heart.  Now, this city-sunshine girl is finding herself moving for the ninetieth time. This time, half way around the world not only to a new place, but also a new language and culture. This time, however, I get to do it with my husband and son.

And together, we'll find the stability in moving within ourselves.


Monday, October 3, 2011

When Hope Is Taken Away

From the time we are young we have hopes.  We hope we'll make friends at school.  We hope the cute boy will ask us out.  We hope to get into college.  We hope we'll get a good job.  We hope we'll fall in love, get married and have children.

As soon as we have children, our hopes become stronger.  From the moment we learn we're pregnant, we start hoping.  Hoping for a healthy baby, first and for most.

Then your hopes turn into wonder and dreams.  I wonder if it's a boy or girl?  I wonder who he/she will look like?  What color eyes will they have?  Will they be smart, funny, shy or popular?

You start to imagine the day they are born, their first steps, words or loose tooth.  Their first day of school, first sleepover, prom and graduation.  Their wedding day and the birth of their own children.  How quickly this little being, you haven't met or even know, fills your mind and heart.

Then, just a quickly as you found out, you realize that this time it wasn't met to be.

The thoughts and feelings that overwhelming took over, don't seem to leave you as quickly as they came.  Now, you're left feeling empty and angry.  Angry because there is no real explanation.  Angry because there was nothing you did or didn't do that could have prevented it.  Angry because you waited too long.  Angry because life took you in a direction you hadn't intended.  Angry because you're just a statistic!

Your doctors, midwife, family and friends all try to console you.  'Things happen for a reason", "A miscarriage is your body's way of knowing that this baby, no matter what, was not viable", "You're lucky, you already have a healthy baby", "At least you know you can get pregnant, you can always try again."

We are often reminded how precious life is and to be grateful for what we do have.  Growing up with a sister with special needs,  9/11, when my father passed away, and the birth of my son, were all reminders for me.  But every day life, our egos, busy schedules,  and our desire to have more, sometimes get in the way and we just forget.  We forget to focus on the good and to be grateful for the abundance we do have in our lives.

When I finally let go of the anger and focused on abundance, I got a strong sense of what I needed to do, where I needed to be, and for what was truly important in my life.  It was then, that I realized, Braden and I needed to be in Korea!  Nothing else mattered more than our family and being together.

As much as I hate to say it, things really do happen for a reason.  Our loss, propelled me to make a decision I was too scared to make on my own.  A decision I wouldn't have made if it hadn't been for the gentle reminder that life is just too precious.

So now, I hope for ...   togetherness.  I am grateful for my husband, my son and all that we have!


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Feeling Protected

When our babies are born we hope for perfection.  This included 10 little fingers and 10 little toes.  What we don't account for are the unforeseeable bumps, bruises, illnesses, broken bones and surgeries that may come throughout their lives.  Some are expected (fevers, colds, and the flu), some are prepared for (by wearing helmets, seat beats, and knee pads),  but how do you handle the news of  something you didn't plan or prepare for?  More importantly, how do you prepare your child?

As a mom, I want to protect my baby, protect him from what's present and protect him from the future.  I want to save his innocents and keep him away from hurt.

But we all know that life doesn't work that way.  We can't hide our children from experiencing what life is and we don't want to shelter them from living.  So how do we protect them and what do we protect them from?  Are we doing more harm than good from keeping them overly protected?  Or do we teach them resilience by letting them fall down and simply being there to help them to get up?

Children are resilient, probably more than we are as adults.  Perhaps this is because they don't hold the same fears we do, or that they trust more, give more freely and accept what is.

This week, Braden had to have surgery.  I wasn't afraid of the surgery itself.  We had an excellent doctor, one I trusted and felt 100 % comfortable with.  The procedure was "simple", correctable, and minor in the bigger scheme of things.  But I was afraid.  I was afraid because I didn't want Braden to feel pain, be scared, to have worries, to be "scarred" for life (not literally, of course).  I didn't want him to fear the hospital, doctors and nurses.  I didn't want him to not trust that I would always keep him safe.  That I, in some way, failed him.  That I didn't protect him and caused him, or allowed him to feel pain.

Of course, Braden will feel pain whether or not he had this hospital experience.  He will feel pain when he falls and scrapes his knee.  He will feel pain when a toy is taken away from him by a friend, when he hears no after he asks for a second helping of ice cream, when he misses Daddy because he's been away for so long or when he experiences his first heartbreak.  As a mother, I want to protect him.  But my job is not necessarily to prevent the pain, it's to help him through it and help him prepare for it.

And so that's what I did.  I prepared Braden for his hospital experience.  I shared with him what would happen, what to expect, and how it might feel before and after the surgery.  I did my best to hold it together and provide a sense of confidence as he went through it.  It wouldn't have been, after all, fair if I put my fears onto Braden.  This was his experience, his story to create, his feelings to have.  I only wanted to provide a solid foundation for him to feel safe.

As expected, children in their resilient and magical way, Braden sailed through the experience.  He was informed, empowered and comfortable.  I'm not saying it wasn't hard or that he didn't feel discomfort, but he knew what to expect, trusted what was happening, complied when necessary and voiced his discomfort when he needed to.

I think, or I hope anyway, that he walked away from this experience feeling protected.


Friday, January 28, 2011

The Start of Education

As a child, I remember the early days of my school experience very vividly; the excitement, new friends, things learned.  I remember making daffodils in preschool using a paper cup and plate that we painted yellow, and being so proud when I brought it home for my mom to see.  I remember class photos, one in particular where I was sitting in the front row next to John Connell, my first real childhood friend.  I always seemed to be in the front row in all of my class photos.  I guess being one of the shortest in class does have its advantages.  I remember recess, learning to tie my shoes, and waiting for the bus.  Bus rides hold many memories saved in my files of the past.

So when it was time for my baby to start preschool, I began reflecting on my past.  I have fond memories of school.  I enjoyed school.  I enjoyed learning.  I enjoyed making friends.  My husband, also an educator, would say the same.  We want our son to have the same fond memories of his education, his school experiences, and the early days of learning.

Selecting a preschool is never easy.  There are many anxieties that go along with the process.  Mostly for the parents, rarely for the children.  I knew Braden was ready for school.  He is very social, extremely articulate, and was just plain ready!

Aside from the obvious, what will he bring home from school?   We'll have a fridge full of paintings, endless colds and runny noses, new friends with whom we can have playdates, and stories to hear.  But up until now, I have been Braden's primary role model.  The person from whom he learned everything.  Of course, there is his dad, the friends he sees regularly, but on the most part, it's just he and I.  What will he learn from his teachers and classmates, that he won't get from me?  What impact will they have on him?  I know my teachers and friends have had huge impacts on me.  I remember...

I remember the first time my kindergarten teacher came back from her honeymoon and announced her new married name.  "My new name," she said, "is now Mrs. Playsick.  It's easy to remember because sometimes we like to play, but we also get sick.  Mrs. Playsick."  Cool, I thought, that's a really cool name for a teacher.  I also remember Mrs. Playsick giving me my first time-out and sending me to the "thinking bench".  Yes, I guess there were time-outs over 30 years ago.  But the reason I remember it so vividly was because it wasn't even my fault.  She blamed me for something I didn't do and wouldn't listen when I told her is was Darleen Krot's fault.  Aaaahhhh  yes, the early days of my education!

I remember writing on the chalk board for the first time, learning to spell, and having spelling bees.  I remember in 4th grade, Mrs. G., my home room teacher, was out sick for over a month and our substitute teacher taught us how to sign New York, New York in sign language.  I still remember how.

I remember learning math, hating science and doing really well in social studies.

I remember the walls of the classroom, the curtains in the auditorium, the marks on the desks and the sounds of the hallways.

I remember snow days, gym class, my favorite teachers, substitute teachers, announcements over the PA, wearing uniforms, detentions, school projects, science fairs, and school dances.  I remember best friends and boy crushes.  In the early years, I remember Spiro Hellen, Danny Peterson, Patricia Balducci, Ronnie Russell, Tommy Falco, Ernest Garvey, Kathleen Curry, Barry Hempsey, AnnMarie D'Ottavio, Deirdre Maher, Chris Ryba, Adrian and Aurora Sottovia, and so many more.

I remember book bags, lockers and hot lunches when I got older.

We found an amazing little pre-school for Braden; one that we know the both of us will feel safe and happy to go to.  One, that we hope will launch his love of school and forever be imbedded in his heart and memories.

So, to you Braden, we wish you a lifetime of learning, an endless amount of curiosity, and a love of education.  Jump aboard this journey...  stop at every stop, learn at every moment and don't get off.  Never stop wanting to grow and learn and be a better person.

We hope, your dad and I, that we are good role models for you.  You may leave the safe walls of your classroom and you may no longer have a teacher to guide you, but learning never stops!

We love you!

We are so very proud of you!

You're on your way...


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

It's no news to those we love that Brooke, Braden and I have had a really tough 2010.  Bidding farewell to 2010 is easy.  It's bidding farewell to the life I am leaving behind that is much harder to do.

For the last 7 years, I have called Los Angeles home.  We have created a family, both within ourselves and with the friends we have met.  It's these friends that have supported us and helped us as we struggled through these last several months.

Now, in 2011, as I find myself waking up in New York, a place that should feel like home to me, it doesn't.  But I know, the New Year offers promise.  A new start, new hope, new change, new job, and new friends. 

What lies ahead is unknown, endless opportunities and for this I am optimistic.

For 2011, I wish;
Love of friends and family and peace within my heart.
Wisdom to chose priorities for those things that really matter.
Abundance for all good things that come to me and the generosity so I may share them.
Health so I  can enjoy each day in comfort.
Joy that comes through my son!

Wishing all those we love a Happy, Healthy and Successful New Year!  May each of you be blessed in 2011!